Monday, July 30, 2012

The Dark Shadows Experiment: The exit interview

One man watched and reviewed all 1,225 episodes of Dark Shadows in 45 days.

Patrick McCray, creator of THE COLLINS FOUNDATION, recently completed his marathon viewing session, wading through several centuries worth of vampires, witches, werewolves and the occasional zombie. He politely agreed to speak to THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY about his experience, as well as a little androcentrism, Dark Shadows: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

1: Did you miss any major details by watching DARK SHADOWS on such an intense schedule?

Short answer: yes.

Middle-weight answer: It became tougher than I recalled to keep track of when and how Barnabas was a vampire and who knew what secret.

Raconteur answer: Details are certainly the first victims, although that seems counter-intuitive.  It all becomes a blur of details.  So many that it's like reading an odd form of binary code or knowing that a Seraut painting is just dots, I found that there were several modes of the project.  One was to obsessively data-mine and document every quip and factoid.  That gets old.  Then there's a mode where you just kind of co-exist with the show.  This is the "household errand" phase. Like a long-married couple, you do your thing, she does her thing, and if she asks for your attention, it's not a big deal to drop what you're doing.  Mission Control has codenamed my home "the Defiant."  That's in the DS9 sense.  One of the properties of the my "Defiant" and Sisko's is that they have small footprints.  Once the show goes on, it's very hard to get away from it... especially when the only internal door is to the bathroom.  The errand mode was a big one.  I'd rewind when necessary.  But another mode set in.  Those binary ones and zeroes would blur.  I would neither ignore the show nor scrutinize it.  It was almost like meditation; I was there.  I was aware of everything in the episodes.  But things like episodic beginnings and ends would vanish.  The best mode was just, you know, paying attention and enjoying the show as a fan... while taking a few notes.

2: The overall continuity of DARK SHADOWS is (mostly) circular, with the final storylines among some of the earliest in the various timelines. Watching the show with this in mind, did knowing the influence of Judah Zachary (as well as the fact that Barnabas was quietly slumbering nearby during the first 200 episodes) alter the experience of watching the entirety of DARK SHADOWS a second time?

Absolutely, and this was my intent.  I wanted to approach the entire show like a wholistic text, reverse engineering everything from the perspective of Judah's influence.  Intriguing questions arose, such as the demonic hierarchy in the series.  How do the Leviathans, Diablos, Nicholas Blair, and Judah Zachary rank and/or co-exist?  The great discoveries I made are that an androcentric reading (which is far from a misogynistic reading) is very helpful.  So often, we see stories of women pining helplessly for men.  In DARK SHADOWS, the opposite is frequently true.  What does this say of the new way in which men could be portrayed in the 1960's?  A text can be read from any number of valid perspectives.  The one in which the private psyches and sensitivities of men are explored is of most interest to me.  Finally, my thinking on the series was so reordered again that I may need to repeat (part of) the Experiment. The full story  is, flat out, a love story about Barnabas and Angelique, and how they save Collinwood by the power of mutual forgiveness.  That is its core, and that is what I will be exploring in the year ahead, and in Phase Three of the Experiment, next summer.

3: Is there a "right place" to begin watching DARK SHADOWS? Is there a "right place" to stop?
That depends on the intent of the viewer.  I'll use three tiers.

For the absolute diehard, go from start to finish.
For the person getting reacquainted with it, I'd start with 1795.
For the totally unfamiliar, I'd start with volumes 14-17.  1897 is in full swing and the show is simply a dizzying joy of freewheeling writing, strong direction, marvelous costumes, handsome cads and beautiful gals, and an acting verve -- anchored by Thayer David and David Selby -- that shows performers deeply in love with their craft.  They are relishing the prizes that the writers are delivering every day.  And once more, Don Briscoe shines as a moral man undone.
4: DARK SHADOWS ended with the fates of the original cast in limbo, possibly even living in an altered BACK TO THE FUTURE-esque timeline. Had the show survived the 1840/Parallel Time debacle, where should the show have gone next?

Well, follow @darkshadowstng on Twitter to find out!

Beyond that, this is what I see would have happened.  Morgan Collins survives to become some kind of monster who shows up in 1971 main time.  That's your crossover character.  I see an eventual move to LA and a change in producers as Curtis would move to features.  There would be plenty of good genre writers suddenly available.  David Gerrold, for example.  Their stories would probably impact the  rest of the show. Having mined a lot of classic horror, I think they'd turn it the seventies hits.  I also foresee two temporary location changes.  One would be David in the West Coast to take advantage of the fact that they are there. It also would have updated the look and feel of the show to what they saw as glamour back then.  The family, of course, would descend.   Also, a Savannah storyline is a must to capture the southern gothic possibilities of the Southern branch of the family.  I foresee a Civil War flashback.

5: Any plans to binge on the DARK SHADOWS novels by Marilyn Ross in a similar fashion?

I need a good source! Off to eBay!


Sandi McBride said...

I always felt that the characters wrote the script as they went along, a twenty minute ad-lib...I sort of like the idea of it.

retzev said...

Great questions, great answers, great stuff.

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